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Hundreds marched to defend DACA recipients in Grand Rapids

On Tuesday, September 5, 2017 hundreds of Grand Rapidians marched through downtown Grand Rapids and held a vigil to protest the ending of DACA.
March on September 5, 2107 in Grand Rapids to stand up for DACA

March on September 5, 2107 in Grand Rapids to stand up for DACA /John Rothwell

Hundreds of Grand Rapidians held a vigil and marched around downtown Grand Rapids Tuesday, September 5, 2017 in response to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcement that the Trump administration was going to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program also known as DACA.

The vigil started at Rosa Parks Circle a little after 7 p.m. and was well organized. Local leaders from Movimiento Cosecha GR instructed 14 volunteers who donned orange vests on how to be marshals to ensure a smooth march and how to address the media and police.

Vigil: Stand Up for DACA

Karla Salazar, a DACA recipient herself came out to march with her friends and employer. When asked about her response to the news yesterday, Salazar said “I had very mixed emotions this morning. Since hearing the news it’s been horrible. I’ve mostly been affected a lot by the negative comments on social media, people claiming they support us financially when they aren’t.”

Salazar described growing up as a child in America who didn’t have the same paperwork others in her family had. “I always knew I wasn’t born here, but I didn’t know about the need for certain documents for work or health care until I was about 13. When I went with my mom to help her translate at the doctor’s, that’s when I figured everything out. When it was time to pay for my brother, she’d get a health care card out of her wallet, but when it came time to pay for me, she paid in cash.”

Mercedes Lopez-Duran, owner of El Granjero and Salazar’s employer, said she came because it was “very important to her.” Her daughter, Paola Mendivil, Catering Coordinator at the restaurant added, “As a business owner we employ people who are DACA recipients and seeing the potential for them to lose this, it’s devastating if they have to go. It’s so upsetting, not being able to do anything as their employer. So we are here.” Lopez-Duran added, “There are a lot of DACA recipients who contribute to our city.”

Mendivil also noted, “Today is my mom’s birthday and we’re supposed to have a dinner, but we’re here,” emphasizing how important they felt the march was.

When asked why she came out to march, even though she broke her ankle a couple weeks ago and had to wheel herself along, Jackie Hernandez, Community Liaison for LINC UP said, “You never know who a Dreamer is. People shouldn’t make assumptions on who Dreamers are and what contributions they are making.”

The march proceeded from Rosa Parks Circle, across the Blue Bridge and in front of the Grand Rapids Public Museum. It continued across the Pearl Street Bridge through the center of town up to Division Street and then back down Lyon Street, ending with a vigil at Calder Plaza. Several DACA recipients and supporters spoke about their lives and their fears around the moves of the Trump administration.

Carlos Delvalle was at the plaza and had just completed his first protest march. When asked why he felt it was important to participate for the first time, he replied, “I wanted to support my people. I’m from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. I feel horrible. I used to work at Bethany Christian Services and the kids there were some of the best kids I’ve met in my life. This could genuinely ruin their lives.”

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